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Arthur Legend, The (1991)

Courtesy of Channel Four Television

Main image of Arthur Legend, The (1991)
For Dispatches, Clark Productions / Parallax Pictures for Channel 4, tx. 12/6/1989
45 minutes, colour
DirectorKen Loach

Reporter: Lorraine Heggessey; interviewees: Arthur Scargill, Roger Cook

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Dispatches investigates allegations of financial impropriety against National Union of Mineworkers leader Arthur Scargill by the Daily Mirror and ITV's The Cook Report, and uncovers flaws in their evidence.

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In this Dispatches (Channel 4, 1987-) programme, director Ken Loach and reporter-producer Lorraine Heggessey defend miners' leader Arthur Scargill against allegations made by the Daily Mirror and ITV's The Cook Report (1987-98), including financial misconduct during the 1984-85 miners' strike.

Building upon the Lightman inquiry's findings that the stories' key claims against Scargill were "entirely untrue", Heggessey disproves the existence of a damning mortgage, challenges witness testimony with forensics and interviews, queries witness payments, visits the Soviet Union to track allegedly missing money and questions the role of intelligence services. The reports' anger about alleged strike support from Libya is contextualised alongside the government's increased Libyan oil imports (trading with 'the enemy without' to defeat 'the enemy within').

Future BBC1 controller Heggessey held newspapers to account in Hard News (Channel 4, 1989-98) and here 'doorsteps' reporters to challenge their methods and ethics. After querying the journalistic value of Roger Cook's doorstepping and his punch-throwing interviewees, Heggessey doorsteps Cook himself, itemising his report's failings and alleging fabrication in one of his other reports.

Like earlier Ken Loach work, 'The Arthur Legend' questions media depictions of the strike and airs working-class voices critical of union and Labour Party positions regarding labour interests. Interviewing and defending Scargill produced none of the controversy Loach endured with the unbroadcast Questions of Leadership and Which Side Are You On? (Channel 4, tx. 9/1/1985), which perhaps indicates the extent of the strike's defeat. Loach's later cinema renaissance included this programme's collaborators Barry Ackroyd, Jonathan Morris and Rebecca O'Brien.

Subsequent revelations supported the programme's belief that Scargill was smeared. In The Guardian in 2002 and 2003, former Mirror editor Roy Greenslade apologised to Scargill and expressed his belief that the Mirror was "duped by a secret service plot"; a key witness challenged by Heggessey was "named in parliament as an MI5 agent".

Dave Rolinson

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Sensational (2:24)
2. Editorial judgement (4:00)
3. Fabricating evidence (3:36)
Dispatches (1987-)
End of the Battle... (1985)
Which Side Are You On? (1984)
Cook, Roger (1943-)
Loach, Ken (1936-)
Ken Loach: The Controversies
Ken Loach: Documentaries